Not to put too fine a point on it, but the only thing that is “just like” twins is twins. The closest legitimate thing I can think of that compares is the case of one of the other mamas in my online multiples community; she adopted her daughter and shortly thereafter gave birth (within a matter of two months, I think). She later had twins. Her first and second daughters are pretty close to twins, however. Much more so than children born more than 9 months apart.
If I have a singleton after my twins, I am not entitled to tell triplet mamas that my three are “just like triplets,” just as I am not entitled to tell the parents of two singletons that my twins are just like having a toddler and a newborn. This leads to my next point: this is not a contest. Unless you have twins you cannot tell me that your two singletons are “harder” than twins. You have no basis for comparison. I cannot say that my twins are harder than your two singletons, because I don’t have two singletons – I have twins. I have no idea what it’s like to have an older child and a newborn. I don’t know what it’s like to parent while pregnant. Also, a singleton pregnancy is medically quite different from a multiples pregnancy. The vast majority of singleton pregnancies have few to no complications. In contrast, the vast majority of multiples pregnancies have complications.
I was extremely lucky with my pregnancy. The only problems I had were morning sickness (weeks 8-18), PUPPS (a rare pregnancy rash, which for a while we thought was a rare, life-threatening liver disorder for which I had to be tested weekly) which lasted for the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy and the following 12 postpartum weeks and was ultimately the impetus for delivery, an inability to sleep for the last trimester (the PUPPS woke me up, and I was too uncomfortable to sleep as my bones and tendons stretched and rearranged), and a dilating cervix. That is the definition of an unbelievably lucky multiple pregnancy. I delivered at 38 weeks. I was getting counseled at 18 weeks about how the medical staff wouldn’t do anything to stop labor after 24 weeks because the babies had a glimmer of a chance of surviving if delivery occurred after 24 weeks. I had to find out the nearest hospital with a level 3 NICU in case of complications and early delivery (70 miles away; my insurance covers mercy flight or ambulance). I had to find a hospital that would operate to separate fused placentas, in case their placentas fused and one twin began to rob the other twin of nutrients. I had to endure the constant worry that one of the twins would stop growing or that one of the twins would die in utero. I had to worry about delivering two infants in succession – that’s worrying about delivering two babies without a cord wrapped around his or her neck; two babies who are head-first, and without prolapsed cords. I had to accept that my twins ran a very real risk of being undersized possibly for their entire lives, and would probably hit milestones well behind their peers until their second birthday (and unbelievably, despite being born small, they are now in the 95th percentile and are hitting milestones with astonishing regularity – again, very lucky). A singleton mama’s blood volume increased by a whopping 50% during her pregnancy. Mine increased 100%. It’s best that we not even contemplate the risks run by triplet and quad mamas. It took until 4 months postpartum for my body to be normally hydrated again – the birth literally drained me. A week before birth I measured as if I was 52 weeks pregnant.
After birth, I was afforded 6 weeks of maternity leave for my vaginal delivery (I took an additional 2 weeks unpaid). A singleton mama who vaginally delivers two babies separately gets a net of 12 weeks of maternity leave. Additionally, because I am caring for two babies during those 6 weeks, I essentially get 3 weeks per twin. Those twins needed feeding every 2 hours, around the clock. Breaking it down, that’s two babies to feed, change, and put to sleep – every two hours. Because my babies weren’t very good latchers, I also had to pump rather than simply breastfeeding them (and there’s nothing simple about tandem breastfeeding twins), which ate into those two hours. If the twins weren’t on the exact same schedule, the cycle literally never ended. And some days they just weren’t on the same schedule. They went through 24 diapers a day on a typical day, and more on a bad day. I have said, and still say, the very worst thing that could happen is that both babies cry at the same time. But the very worst thing is having to bundle them both up and go to the hospital because one is dangerously underweight and jaundiced, and you have two to care for. And like I said, we are incredibly lucky. We avoided so many major complications (ranging from the extreme – death of one or both twins and conjoined twins – to the relatively minor) and have healthy, happy babies.
Humorously, singleton parents rarely have to deal with people shouting to them from across crowded stores, “TWINS?! Double trouble!” or some other tired phrase. They rarely have to deal with people asking to take photos of their children (creepy) or asking to pick them up (really creepy). Singleton parents (assuming they have more than one child), do have the luxury of easing into an empty nest when the time comes. They also have to contend with a potentially jealous older sibling when a new baby comes into the home. I don’t have those problems.
In sum, parents shouldn’t have to compete. We are all lucky in unique ways and we all have challenges. My twins are wonderful and since they’re very good eaters and terrific sleepers, I probably actually have it easier than most singleton parents. I wouldn’t trade them for all the tea in China. Or for anything else, for that matter.